Impact of Alcohol Screening for Traumatic Brain Injury Patients Being Admitted to Neurosurgical Intensive Care Unit

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Objective: The aims of this study were to determine the prevalence and describe the importance of alcohol screening for all patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and examine the relationship between gender, age, Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS), emergent decompressive craniectomy, Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) from the emergency department (ED), and the length of stay with alcohol screening. Method: This is a retrospective analysis of de-identified data from the 2012 TBI registry of a level 1 trauma center in the Pacific Northwest. Measurements and Main Results: Of 1591 patients with TBI, 1273 (80%) were screened for alcohol use and 318 (20%) were not screened. There was a significant association between alcohol screening and AIS (χ2(5) = 15.46, P < .001), ED GCS (χ2(12) = 22.13, P = .04), sex (χ2(1) = 7.86, P ≤ .001), and age (r = 0.23, P < .001). Women and patients with high AIS (critical), low (mild) AIS, and midrange GCS scores were less likely to be screened, as were younger patients. Urgent decompressive craniectomy (χ2(1) = 1.94, P = .16) and length of stay (r = −0.04, P = .14) did not display a significant association with alcohol screening. Conclusion: This study uncovered a systemic bias per sex and age for alcohol screening, as well as skewed AIS and GCS scores due to an unknown alcohol intoxication status. An updated ED’s triage process and screening tool is recommended to achieve a targeted 100% alcohol screening rate for all head trauma patients in the ED before admission to the neurosurgical intensive care unit.

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